Objective: In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), treatment with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) binding agents has proven to be highly effective. Downregulation of the proinflammatory cytokine cascade and a reduced migration of leukocytes into the joints have been proposed as modes of action of TNFalpha blockade. We investigated whether alterations in the number of circulating pro- and antiinflammatory T cell subsets contribute to the therapeutic effect of monoclonal antibodies (mAb) against TNFalpha in RA patients.
Methods: Phenotypic analysis of peripheral blood T cell subsets was performed on blood from RA patients before and after treatment with an anti-TNFalpha mAb.
Results: An accumulation of primed CD45RA- T cells of both the CD4+ and the CD8+ T cell population was seen shortly after treatment. Most notably, within the CD4+,CD45RA- T cell subset, the number of interferon-gamma-producing T cells was significantly increased after anti-TNFalpha mAb treatment, resulting in a significant rise in the Th1:Th2 ratio. In addition, an increase in the number of CD4+ T cells expressing the homing receptor CD49d in high density was observed after treatment, which correlated positively with the increase in the Th1:Th2 ratio. Conclusion. We show that the Th1:Th2 ratio in the peripheral blood is raised by anti-TNFalpha mAb treatment.